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Conclusion: To Have and to Hold Even when slave families succeeded in creating an economic and social space for themselves, the public world of the master could still intrude with devastating force. Slaves could organize themselves in family units and become models of good conduct and discipline yet still be at the mercy of masters, mistresses, the wider white community, other members of the slave quarters community, and, of course, the vicissitudes of economic fortune . It would seem that what was most difficult and troubling for South Carolina slaves was not their inability to acquire the goods and services that improved their chances of making a life of their own. The most pernicious reality of their lives as slaves was their inability to safeguard their finest achievements—to have and to hold what they considered most dear. The case of Andrew, a slave tried before the Magistrates and Freeholders Court, provides a stark reminder of the essential vulnerability of all slaves and the obstacles that even the most hardworking and industrious among them may have encountered trying to maintain some semblance of family life. On December 29, 1841, a slave house on the plantation of Andrew Oliver was broken into by Thomas Duckworth's Andrew. Some clothing, washing apparel, a bonnet, and other goods were thrown out; a chest was broken into and its contents were also taken. The house belonged to Candy, Andrew's wife. There had been a "falling out between the two," and they had separated. Oliver had forbidden Andrew to come to the place, one time threatening that he would "whip and kill him" if he found him there again. Sometime after this and before the house was broken into, Oliver again found Andrew on his property and drove him off. 177 Conclusion Andrew, in turn, swore to Oliver that he would have satisfaction "if it took him five or ten years." In testimony before the court, Oliver reported that he had alwaystreated Andrew well until he and his wife "fell out and separated , but when that happened . . . I forbidded him from coming there." Sometime later, he had overheard Andrew swear that he would go to Oliver's "when he pleased; would take his young master and break open the house and take off his things in spite of him." Andrew did not deny having broken into his wife's house but explained that "he had things there which he had given to his wife" and that she had "taken up with another" man and he refused to "let him wallow on the things he had bought." He had, therefore, taken away some "bed clothes, spread and such, that had been bought with his money." He gave the court some idea of the emotional torment he had been suffering when he described the action of his wife in taking up with another man, concluding that "no man could submit to such treatment."l The goods Andrew had accumulated and given to his wife had been purchased with his own money acquired by "knocking about, by buying and selling things." Andrew, his wife, Candy, and other witnesses acknowledged the nature and quality of the goods that had been thrown out of the house. Their presence in Candy's house testifies to the amount of property ordinary slaves could accumulate. The goods, according to Oliver's testimony , included a pitcher, which Andrew broke, some plates, three shirts, four cotton frocks, two or three calico frocks, two of which "he knew belonged to Candy," and some clothing that "belonged to a young child." Candy claimed that two quilts she had made had also been taken and that she had spun the shirts and the frocks and that Andrew had taken a bonnet that was "nearly new and cost $3." Candy also owned "a stear . . .valued at $6 or $7." Andrew was clearly in a position to provide these goods, and Candy was useful in working with cloth and looking after the livestock— doing her share in what had been a harmonious relationship based on complementary roles.2 Andrew's relationship with Oliver was described as "friendly as brothers previous to them falling out." Andrew's familiarity and intimacy with his wife's owner might have given Andrew a strong sense of his own worth and enhanced his feelings of equality with Oliver. When they fell out, each threatened the other's life. Oliver, however, had the power to act decii78 Conclusion sively. At one point, Andrew had considered trying...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820337272
Related ISBN
9780820318301
MARC Record
OCLC
656846698
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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